As a country, Cambodia doesn’t have it easy. It is in the top percent of the poorest countries in the World, many people live on just $2 per day. They have a high incidence of sex and human trafficking, and between 1975 and 1979 the whole country was virtually wiped out during the Khmer Rouge rule, leaving effectively a peasant society, where those left had little education or skills in which to build a life.
Yet many people don’t think of or see Cambodia in this way. They see or think of the beautiful Temples of Angkor Wat, or the scenic islands of Koh Rong. However, when you take time to get your head out of the touristy spots and actually see Cambodia, you will find that whilst the country is still very much developing, and people have become educated and making a life for future generations; it still remains a deeply impoverished country.
I had never quite thought of Cambodia as needing international aid, or indeed being a poor country. When I think of a poor country, I generally think of places in Africa. Stereotypical images which have been heavily influenced by media campaigns.
Cambodia however is rarely talked about, yet it and its people need help. During my two weeks in the country, I was surprised to see so many NGOs operating to bring a future and hope to the lives of Cambodian people’s. I visited and supported many. If you are going to Cambodia, here are some awesome organisations you can support:
Stung Treng Province
Le Tonle Tourism Training Centre – an organisation providing free vocational training to vulnerable young people. You can stay at their Guesthouse or eat at their restaurant
Siem Reap Phare, The Cambodia Circus
Joe to Go Cafe, is linked to The Global Child Organisation, which supports young people in free vocational training, education and provides healthcare and school supplies. Ithas yummy food and also sells art pieces
Battambang Phare, The Cambodian Circus
This is where Phare started out, although performances here are limited to three times per week.
Friends International (cafe and shop)
This is an organisation that I heard about at the last minute, by an Australian girl that I met in Battambang. The orginsation is an NGO that helps woman, who are caught up in the sex industry, and who have been sex slaves, to be free, by enabling them to learn new skills and fend for themselves in their new lives. They have 7 different businesses including 2 cafes, a boutique shop, a small guesthouse, and a spa. During my time in Phnom Penh, I visited the Sugar and Spice cafe. I was so touched, by the hospitality of the girls, and how grateful they appeared to be, through being there.
Sons of Cambodia (support for ladyboys in Cambodia)
This is a sister organisation, linked to daughter’s of Cambodia. You can support them, by buying products in their gift shop.
Epic Arts Cafe is a cafe run to support deaf and disabled people. You order your meal by writing it down. The food is incredibly delicious.
If you have time, you can volunteer with different NGOs, but I would seriously consider which one you choose to volunteer at and for how long. Many NGOs have a minimum time period of 3 months, or more if you are volunteering with Children or vulnerable people. There are “organisations” which many backpackers run to to “volunteer” at, particularly so called Orphanages. Here they go for one day, play with the children and many donate clothes, toys or money. They have to pay to volunteer at these places. Some have been set up to make money, and the children are not orphaned at all, they are locals who just come to play at a centre during the day, and return to their parents at night. This is not responsible tourism. Volunteering with Children is not a good idea, unless you can commit at least 6 months. Children who are genuinely without parents and a stable home base are constantly seeing new faces, unable to develop any attachment. Facing rejection on a daily basis. Just don’t do it! Do support the organisations listed above however.
Do you know of any more organisations in Cambodia? Feel free to add them on the comments page!
Have you ever volunteered overseas? It is something I want to do more of when I travel.